Sochi 2014: Will social media foil Putin’s grand Winter Olympics plan?

Story highlights

Russia will host the Winter Olympics for the first time in February 2014

Gay rights will be one of the background issues for the competition

Sochi organizers tackling the challenge of using, and dealing with, social media

Lessons to learn from London 2012, which generated huge volumes of online traffic

CNN  — 

With 150 million tweets across 16 days, and 80,000 a minute when Usain Bolt won his 200 meters title, plus 1 billion official page impressions on Facebook, the London 2012 Olympics was crowned as the “first social media Games.”

But what impact will Sochi’s Winter Olympics have next February?

Will Vladimir Putin’s grand plan to transform an ailing region, using sport to make a bold statement of intent – as China did with its Olympics in 2008 and Qatar hopes to do with soccer’s World Cup in 2020 – be derailed by increasingly web savvy activist groups?

The Winter Olympics traditionally lacks the superstar athletes who can match Bolt’s worldwide appeal, and the scope of its sports is smaller in size as well as profile.

However, Russia’s first hosting of the four-yearly competition has already drawn global attention.

There have been howls of protest at the country’s new so-called anti-gay legislation and raised eyebrows at the colossal $50 billion (and rising) cost of turning a faded Black Sea resort into a high-tech host venue.

The world is waiting to see how Russia, and the International Olympic Committee, will cope with potential contraventions of rules and regulations designed to protect a wide range of interests from political to the commercial – the main conduit of which is expected to be social media.

Read: Russian law sparks ‘defining civil rights movement’

“The 2014 Games are likely to be very tightly policed,” says sports business expert Simon Chadwick, “because of the way in which the IOC tries to protect its commercial partners, but also potentially because of the way in which the Russian government will seek to minimize dissent and the threats posed by, for example, sponsorship ambushers.

“Vancouver 2010 showed how vigilant the authorities can be in policing the Games, and one would expect to see comparable levels of vigilance being exercised in Sochi too.”

A new code